Mask (film)

Mask (film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Produced by Martin Starger
Written by Anna Hamilton Phelan
Starring Cher
Eric Stoltz
Sam Elliott
Laura Dern
Estelle Getty
Music by Dennis Ricotta
Cinematography László Kovács
Editing by Barbara Ford
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) March 8, 1985
Running time 120 min
127 min (director's cut)
Country United States
Language English
Box office $78,230,162

Mask is a 1985 American biographical drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, starring Cher, Sam Elliott, and Eric Stoltz. Dennis Burkley and Laura Dern are featured in supporting roles. Cher received the 1985 Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress.[1] The film is based on the life and early death of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis, a boy who suffered from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, an extremely rare disorder known commonly as lionitis due to the disfiguring cranial enlargements that it causes. Mask won the Academy Award for Best Makeup while Cher and Stoltz received Golden Globe nominations for their performances.



Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), who suffers from a skull deformity, is accepted without question by his freewheeling biker mother's boyfriends, the extended motorcycle family, and his maternal grandparents (who share his love of baseball card collecting) but treated with fear, pity, awkwardness, and teasing by those unaware of his humanity, humor, and intelligence. Rocky's mother, Florence "Rusty" Dennis (Cher) is determined to give Rocky as normal a life as possible, in spite of her own wild ways as a member of the biker gang. She fights for Rocky's inclusion in a mainstream junior high school, and she confronts a principal who would rather classify Rocky with mental retardation and relegate him to a special education school to fulfill his special needs. Rusty asks the principal if they teach "algebra, biology, and English at this school, because...these are Rocky's needs."

Rocky goes on to thrive at school. He wins friends by assisting a locker neighbor in remembering his combination. Using humor when faced with an awkward silence during roll call, Rocky just repeats the prior new student's line "Wow, thanks a lot." The class turns to smile and laugh with Rocky. He shows his brilliance in History class by giving a terrific rendition of the Greek myth about the Trojan Horse and it being the starting point of the Trojan Wars. Gradually overcoming discrimination and tutoring his classmates for $3 per hour, the principal asks Rocky to accept a job as a counselor's aide at Camp Bloomfield, a summer camp for the junior blind. At his graduation from junior high, Rocky takes home the academic achievement prizes in mathematics, history and science.

Rocky feels the need to leave his chronically depressed and drug addicted mother, and in a tough love way, he helps Rusty help herself break her drug habit. At camp Rocky falls in love with Diana Adams (18-year-old Laura Dern), a blind girl who cannot see (but feels) his deformed countenance and is entranced by Rocky's kindness and compassion. Rocky uses his intelligence to explain to Diana the sighted words like billowy, clouds, red and blue by using cotton balls as a touchable vision of billowy clouds, a boiling hot rock to explain red hot and a frozen rock to explain icy blue. Diana introduces Rocky to her parents, who have a suspicious feeling about Rocky, due to his appearance. It becomes clear that Diana is overprotected by her parents, who don't give any messages to her, nor is she allowed to answer the phone, when Rocky calls from home.

Near the end of the film, Rocky faces the pain of separation from his girlfriend who goes away to a Special School for the Blind and the collapse of his dream motorbike trip through Europe when his best friend who was to come with him moves back to Michigan for good. However, Rocky feels better after taking a bus trip by himself to visit Diana at the equestrian stables, located near Griffith Park. Diana tells Rocky that she never received the phone messages from her parents, and this visit was to be Rocky's final encounter with Diana. One evening when Rocky's "Biker Family" is visiting, Rocky is fighting a fierce headache and quietly withdraws to his room. However, Rocky dies in his sleep that evening. Finding her dead son the next morning Rusty flies into a fit of hurt and anger. Rusty then re-pins Rocky's map of Europe and poetically says, "Now you can go anywhere you want, Baby."

The movie ends with Rocky's biker family, Rusty, Gar and Dozer, visiting his grave, leaving flowers and some 1955 Brooklyn Dodger baseball cards by his headstone. A prized poem Rocky penned earlier in the movie closes the film:

These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a Harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face. These things are a drag: dust in my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun shining on my face.

Soundtrack issues

Bogdanovich had originally intended to use several Bruce Springsteen songs on the film's soundtrack, but due to an impasse between Universal and Springsteen's label, Columbia Records, the songs were pulled from the film and replaced with songs by Bob Seger for the original theatrical release, prompting a $19 million lawsuit by Bogdanovich against the studio.[2] The Springsteen songs were eventually restored for the 2004 director's cut DVD of the film.


In Popular Culture

  • Family Guy The scene in which Diana feels Rocky's face is parodied in the episode Petarded. In this cut-away gag, Diana is vocally disconcerted by the texture of Rocky's face, and describes it as a "Pelvis".
  • Comedy Central's Tosh.0 used a picture of Eric Stoltz's portrayal of Rocky in a skit making fun of Shaun White, claiming it was his yearbook photo. TBS's Lopez Tonight used a similar picture in a skit making fun of American Idol Contestant Jimmy Kennedy, claiming the movie was a sighting of Kennedy before his Idol audition.[3]
  • A similar disfigured character,is portrayed in the hit science fiction drama X-Files during the episode entitled "The Post-Modern Prometheus" (Season 5.5). The disfigured boy is called Mutato by people in his town who have rejected him from society. Mutato watches the Mask obsessively and dreams of one day meeting Cher. Mutato's dreams of meeting Cher are fulfilled at the end of the episode.


Reviews were highly positive: Roger Ebert wrote of the film, "A wonderful movie, a story of high spirits and hope and courage." A contrasting review in the New York Times read in part "Mask is one of those movies that try so hard to get their supposedly universal message across (don't we all hide behind a mask of one sort or another?) that they are likely to put your teeth on edge more often than they bring one little, lonely teardrop to the eye."[4]

As of March 2010, the film had a 92% "fresh" rating on[5]

Box office

The film was a box office success garnering $20,478,600 in rentals with a total North American Box Office gross of $42,400,000.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Mask". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  2. ^ London, Michael (1985-02-27). "Legal Snarl: Springsteen Or Seger?". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "Mask: Bogdanovich Tale of Rare Disease," Vincent Canby, New York Times, March 8, 1985
  5. ^ [2] Mask reviews on Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^

External links

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